City’s first black female police officer on patrol (with video) news register-herald.com 9gag instagram videos

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Diggs’ hometown hasn’t left her or any other young woman of color deprived of public role models. Currently, Janine Bullock fills a seat on Beckley Common Council, and former Common Council member Madrith Chambers, founder of the Kids Classic celebration, was presented a Key to the City in April 2016.

The late Elsie McCray served as the nursing director at Jackie Withrow Hospital and led the Raleigh County NAACP. Drema Robertson, the late evangelist, and wife of the first black BPD detective chief, former Common Councilman Cedric Robertson, was pastor of an addictions ministry at Heart of God Ministries in Beckley, years before state officials had identified substance abuse disorder as an epidemic.

"But in the community, it does make a big difference," Christian explained. "We have a very diverse community in Beckley. For a lot of people, whether it be that they feel they can trust certain people more because they’re female or because of a race factor, whatever it is, sometimes, just, those things help with the trust aspect in law enforcement."

In 2016, the website urbanstats.com reported that the African-American community makes up 21 percent of the Beckley population, at 3,735 residents in the city of 17,614. Whites account for 72 percent of residents, with mixed-race residents making up 3 percent, Asians comprising 2 percent and Hispanic residents making up 1 percent.

There are currently three women on the BPD force and five African-American officers, including Diggs, Chief Christian reported. Statistically, a small number of women and minority men apply for law enforcement jobs. All applicants must pass background checks, a written test and a physical agility test, under state guidelines. The agility test tends to disqualify a majority of the small pool of female applicants each cycle, he explained.

"With a female, those applicants are very difficult to come by, so Charlene was a very good pick-up," he said. "I really believe ladies bring in a different perspective to policing and being able to do the job, and it’s something you really need in law enforcement.

Like Diggs, retired BPD Chief of Detectives Cedric Robertson, a lifelong Beckley resident, was also a trailblazer. He wasn’t the first black man to be hired on the force, but he was the first black chief of detectives at BPD. Like Diggs, he also applied as an officer as the result of minority recruiting by the department.

"It changed over the years, because there was other police officers that was hired, when I went to school that I knew, as far as in the community, playing sports," he said. "So we started to become one as a police department, trying to reach that one goal of serving and protecting.

"People gave me information that they would not normally give a white police officer, because they knew me and trusted me," he explained, adding of Diggs: "She has ties in the community. She can find out things that, normally, a white officer could not find out. The trust is there, with being a minority, especially in the African-American community."

Diggs, a high school athlete who played basketball for Woodrow Wilson High School, had wanted to work in law enforcement since childhood. She studied criminal justice in college. In 2016, she passed the BPD exam and graduated from the State Police officer training academy.

Prior to putting on the uniform, Diggs said she had not understood the responsibilities that come with her dream job. The uniform binds her to her fellow officers — mostly white, mostly male — and sets her up for experiences that only another officer could fully appreciate.

"What I’ve encountered, people who are of lower socioeconomic status are more threatened, I guess, to being hurt by the police or mistreated by the police, and people of a higher socioeconomic status feel more entitled, like, ‘There’s other people you could be pulling over besides me,’" she reported. "I’ve dealt with both."

"As long as you did your job and did the best you could and had the respect for people, once you’re there for so many years and people know who you are, they respect you so much that you don’t have to fight as much," she said. "But, if worst comes to worst, and you have to fight, you just have to fight."

When asked about the physical strength required for the job, Diggs pointed out it’s no secret that most men are physically stronger than most women. She said the key is to work with male officers and to cuff a male suspect who is getting out of control before the incident turns physical.

"We were just really pleased for Charlene to excel as she did, both in the testing phase and the physical agility stage of her training," said Rappold. "She’s been an exemplary officer and brings a nice dimension to the force, a highly respected officer by her fellow officers and the community."